5 semesters later, staffer emerges from basement relatively unscathed

Meghan Nguyen

Let me begin by saying that these past five semesters working in this basement have been … cathartic. I’ve made playlists for people I’ve met in here. Watched my Tupperware rotate in the microwave. I’ve written about crime and senseless tragedy but also about amazing students, celebrations and restaurant openings. Fumbled with broken tripods for Video. Pored over 14 stories one night as news desk editor. And this semester, as a member of the Diversity Board, I’ve been trying to make our staff and coverage more inclusive.

So much of my undergraduate life was lived here. Even though I was paid pennies an hour, I will never forget it. Lisa, Sara, Megan, Forrest, Sarah, Peyton, Faith, Tiana, Kirsten, Sydney, Emily … I’ve met so many wonderful people who I will never have enough words to thank. Who have made this basement seem brighter than it was. Thank you.

It wouldn’t be possible to acknowledge the things the Texan has done for me without also critiquing it. That being said, the things I’ve witnessed here have made me realize the Texan is deeply flawed. It doesn’t just have a diversity problem — the climate and character of this paper is beyond merely a problem. There is a colossal weight on top of that basement. It stinks of opportunism and privilege, and it is one that pushes people of color out, if they even manage to make it there in the first place.

That is why, after this semester, I do not see myself able to continue working here. At the start, I talked to friends about maybe running for department head or joining Opinion, and I genuinely meant it. But the things I’ve experienced here have shown me that all we have been capable of doing is enforcing the status quo over and over again. Unless we stop to ask who made the status quo, and who and what it benefits and caters to, we’re not that much different than the Texan was in 1900. I don’t mean that as an attack, I mean it as a reality and a truth.

I want us to stop asking our staff to evaluate their politics and engagement and to consistently be “apolitical.” I want our reporters to stop helicoptering into marginalized communities, slapping their name on stories hastily written about them and using these stories to try to get a leg up in the industry. Good journalism should expose injustice, challenge power dynamics and uplift intentionally marginalized voices, and we have a duty to do exactly that. Readership, social media, staying “neutral” and attaching your name to your stories should not matter more to you than the people and issues you’re supposed to cover.

I’m sorry that it took me leaving for me to be able to address this properly, but I still remain adamant that this paper has promise and potential. The least I can do is hope that means something.